Global Policy Forum

Annan Reports Upsurge Of Atrocities


By Jerome Hule

Panafrican News Agency
June 9, 1999

New York - UN Secretary General Kofi Annan has given details of increased atrocities against civilians in Sierra Leone by rebels of the Revolutionary United Front (RUF) and their collaborators from the ousted Armed Forces Ruling Council (AFRC) junta. In his latest report to the UN Security Council, Annan cited eyewitness accounts showing that the rebels were carrying out summary executions, mutilations, limb amputations, abductions, sexual abuse and large scale destruction of property. Most of the atrocities, he said, were reported from the provincial towns of Masiaka and Port Loko. Annan's report comes as rebel leaders and the government of Sierra Leone are going through peace negotiations in Togo.

Incidently, some of the rebel abuses are reported to have been carried out as preparations were underway for peace talks in Lome, the Togolese capital. ''During a rebel attack on Port Loko on 7 May, over 20 civilians are believed to have been summarily executed by a group of RUF/AFRC at nearby Mangarma village,'' the report noted. ''In the Masiaka area, the (UN Observer Mission in Sierra Leone--UNOMSIL) team observed a number of bodies and received credible reports that eight decapitated bodies and severed heads of civilians had been displayed on the roadside by retreating RUF/AFRC,'' the Secretary General stated. He said the rebel forces have in the past month alone amputated the limbs of at least a dozen victims in that area. In addition to these, the rebel group has also been carrying out abductions, with victims used a porters, potential recruits or as sex slaves. In one village alone, the village chief is reported to have said that thousands of residents have been abducted.

Annan, in his report released Tuesday, also said that few instances of ill-treatment of civilians by soldiers of the West African peace monitoring group, Ecomog and the civil militia backing the government, had also been reported. But he pointed out that the Ecomog high command had exhibited goodwill and taken steps to investigate cases of abuses by its soldiers during the rebel invasion of the capital city of Freetown in January.

Meanwhile, Annan said the civil militia, known as the Kamajors, have continued to recruit underaged children, even though they had promised to stop the practice and disarm child soldiers among their ranks. The report indicated that the humanitarian situation has gotten worse as rebels control more areas and cut off access to those areas by humanitarian organisations. ''At present nearly half, or 2.6 million, of the Sierra Leonean population in the northern and eastern provinces, is effectively out of reach of humanitarian agencies,'' he said. Despite this situation, the Secretary General said he was encouraged by the progress made in the peace talks between the government and the rebels in Lome. He promised to deploy more observers to the UN observer mission in Sierra Leone. UNOMSIL currently has 24 military observers. Another 16 observers are to be deployed this month.

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